TUALATIN, Ore. — There was a snapshot last weekend of the Portland Trail Blazers’ new world.
Damian Lillard was on a scoring binge against the Houston Rockets and as every gutsy 3-pointer, driving scoop lay up and stop-and-pop jump shot ripped the net, the Rose Garden shrilled its delight in deafening decibels.
It was in this moment – the lyrics “you shook me all night long” thundering in the background — when a small child, his face painted in red and black, flashed across the massive overhead video screen, holding this sign:
“Brandon Who … We’ve got Lillard!”
How fleeting love can be — especially when you have bad knees
On Monday, Brandon Roy — who won the Rookie of Year award and earned three All-Star appearances as a Blazer — underwent arthroscopic surgery.
Though Roy, 28, has endured a history of knee problems that led to his medical retirement, he was attempting a comeback this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
According to his new team, Roy should miss at least one month, and so he will not make a return to the Rose Garden this Friday night when the Wolves visit the Blazers.
Inside the Blazers’ practice facility, the reaction to the news was low-key from those who knew Roy best.
“It’s sad, ya know,” Nicolas Batum said.
Batum’s breakout season (2010-2011) was also the last for Roy in Portland.
The Blazers advanced to the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks, and Game 4 will live on as Roy’s final great act.
On the night of April 23, 2011, Roy scored 18 fourth-quarter points in Portland’s comeback win from 23 points down. However, the Blazers would lose the series, and the roses fell at Roy’s feet for the final time in Portland.
Nevertheless, as Roy attempted to revive his career, Batum admitted that he had hoped his former teammate would make his Rip City curtain call this Friday.
“Actually, I was waiting for this game for him to be back in the Rose Garden,” Batum said. “I just wish him the best.”
LaMarcus Aldridge, the other holdover from the Roy era, expressed only slight concern about his former teammate.
Though Aldridge was not as brazen as the small boy, who with his sign was wheeling the moving truck away from the B-Roy era and towards the Blazers’ new love, he also made it clear where current allegiances lie.
“I didn’t even know about it, but I have no reaction,” Aldridge said, when asked for his response to Roy’s surgery. “I feel bad for him, but I’m trying to focus on this team.”
Blazers D gets an ‘A’
Although the trend started in a loss to Atlanta, the last four Blazer games have shown markedly improved defense.
The Blazers have held four straight opponents below the desired 50-percent shooting threshold and have won three consecutive games.
“I think we’re starting to play better defense,” said Lillard, who leads all rookies in steals (1.50 a game) and had three in Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bulls. “Every game, we’ve scored points. That hasn’t been our problem.
“At first, it was, ‘We can’t keep letting people shoot 55 (and) close to 60 percent.’ We’ve just had a better effort on that end. Guys been flying around, protecting the rim. That’s just leading us to getting easier buckets.”
The Blazers allowed 30 first-quarter points on Sunday night but when it became necessary, they clamped down on the Bulls and held the Derrick Rose-less roster to 49.3%.
“I think we kind of bear down and make it more of a priority,” coach Terry Stotts said. “It seems that we ease into games a little bit, and I think that hurts us. We’ve had good offensive starts but not good defensive starts.”
Batum: Love, hate
A lost in translation moment happened on Monday when Batum was asked what he thought of “five and five,” relating to the Blazers’ current record.
“I like it,” Batum answered politely. “I mean, that’s how we play — we play five on five.”
When the reporter clarified that he meant what did Batum think of the team being 5-5 for the season, the native of Lisieux, France had a light bulb moment.
“Ohhh!” Batum exclaimed. “I’m French.”
Then, Batum continued with his response.
“We should be 7-3, so I’m kind of mad about it,” Batum said, stating he believed the Blazers should have won the games against the Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio Spurs. “We should (have) never (lost) those two. We should be 7-3 but we’re 5-5. (But) we can’t go back.”